Be More Greedy With Your Time

Be More Greedy With Your Time

I tried everything. I tried creating a to-do list. I tried creating a detailed plan point-by-point plan for the day. I downloaded an app call Accomplish that would schedule out what I want to do, when I want to do it, and how long I want to do it for.

I realized something. I was trying to do too much. I was overwhelmed. There’s so much I want to do. But there never seems to be enough time.

But I’m wrong. There is plenty of time.

I was spending so much time focusing on what I wanted to do. When really I should have focused on generating more time through the process of elimination.

Here’s how I did it 

First, I identified the biggest time wasters.  What was I doing that was consuming a majority of my leisure time? Second, I identified the lead domino, which I’ll elaborate more on in a second. Finally I ruthlessly eliminated those activities that I identified.

What is leisure time spent on?

There’s plenty of time in the day. I need to stop feeding into the false narrative of telling myself there isn’t enough time.

Have you ever found yourself telling someone you can’t do something because there aren’t enough hours in the day? “If only the day was 30 hours long I’d be able to do x, y, and z”

I have recited that story many times.

Truth is, there is a load time throughout the day that isn’t utilized in an effective manner. According to bls.gov Americans spend an average of 5.1 hours per day on leisure as of 2015.

However, of those 5.1 hours, 2.8 are spent watching TV. Also, according to businessinsider.com the average worldwide user on Facebook is on Facebook and related apps (i.e. Instagram) for an average of 50 minutes per day. Just these two activities alone reveal approximately 3 hours per day that could be opened up by eliminating certain activities.

Facing reality

Realizing this, I sat down and I was honest with myself. I asked myself the following questions:

  • What things do I engage in during my leisure time that I don’t really care about?
  • What things do I do that cause a ripple effect, leading to me wasting more time than expected?
  • What can I eliminate to help create more time for myself?

I spend quite a bit of my leisure time reading, going on long walks, and cooking and taking care of my fitness. However, I spend the remainder of that leisure time:

  1. Watching TV (usually some sporting event)
  2. Perusing Facebook
  3. Getting sucked into  reading clickbait articles
  4. And indulging my curiosities by getting lost on the rabbit hole that is the internet.

These are the things that I spend my leisure time on each day, in order of the time I spend doing them.

So it I were to eliminate activities, I should start at the top of the list and go from there. Right? I don’t quite accept this answer. Instead I ask myself a better question.

What is the lead domino, knocked over all of the other dominoes?

I asked myself “what are the things that I do that lead me to waste more time than I intended?”

In other words, what activities are the lead domino, that sets off the chain reaction to time waste? What are those things that I do initially that lead me to waste even more time?

By changing the question a new answer arose.

While watching TV and using Facebook consume much of my extra leisure time, they aren’t the lead domino that was causing me to waste time. As a matter of fact, it’s my curiosity that was causing me to waste a lot of time.

If you don’t know me, I am a very curious person. I like to learn new things. I think of questions or thoughts about the world. Naturally I feed this curiosity by going on Google and Wikipedia for answers.

The lead domino in action

How does the curiosity rabbit hole look?

An idea or question pops into my head. I get on my computer and go on Google and search for the key terms are related to the idea.

I then open one to five tabs that have articles related to what I’m thinking about. I skim through the articles. Then at the end of one article I see a catchy headline for another article about something else kind of related but not really.

Naturally I click on that article and read it. Then I see another catchy heading on something even less related to what I was originally looking for. I click on it anyways, read a few sentences, then move on.

Then I go to my address bar in Chrome, type the letter F, hit enter. Now I’m on Facebook. I start browsing whatever’s on Facebook, go through a few more clickbait headline articles, and watch a video or two (sometimes more!).

What happens is that my curiosity led me to the internet. This led me to satisfy my question. Which ultimately led to me wasting 15 minutes or more on Facebook and other web sites.

Now I know where to focus

I don’t spend much time searching for things on the web. However, this is the thing that sets into motion me wasting. As a result, I’m more aware of what to fix first before eliminating those biggest time-waster.

I need to limit my curiosity searches online. I can approach this from two angles.

  1. I can avoid searching for things that make me curious all together or
  2. I can create a rule for every time I indulge my curiosity.

The rule is this: once I’ve found what I’m looking for, close the laptop and step away. Simple but not easy.

When I adhere to this rule I eliminate other activities that waste a lot of time. I notice that Facebook was just becoming a habit due to this routine. As I said, every time I click in that address bar type the letter F and Facebook was is the first thing that pops up (is this true for you too?).

Once the lead domino has been identified and a rule put in place, what next?

Facebook was even becoming a habit whenever I was on my phone. At work, with a few minutes of free time, I would naturally gravitate towards the Facebook app and that little red notification icon.

So I deleted the Facebook app from my phone. Part of it was to free up some time throughout the day. Part of it was to break that habits. And part of it has much to do with the recent election.

It wasn’t easy. I deleted the app from my phone three separate occasions in the past. But this time I’ve been able to stick to it. I still go on Facebook on the web browser. But even just that shift alone has cut down on my Facebook time by 50% or more.

One last tweak…

I also spend a decent amount of time watching TV. So I set up a few rules here as well.

Rule one: No channel surfing. This leads to that rabbit hole I was talking about. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself getting sucked into horrible reality shows because I believed I had nothing else to do.

Rule two: Watch with a purpose. If I don’t have an intention (a particular show or event to watch), then I’m not turning it on.

I do my best to watch TV with a purpose. I’m a big sports fan. Naturally I want to watch whatever big game is on or when my team is playing. So I plan my day accordingly and I know that a few hours of my day are going to be spent in front of the TV. And I’m perfectly okay with that.

A curious discovery

I was trying so hard to manage every minute of time. By focusing on what to eliminate, I’ve created a void to fill. I found that cutting those leisure activities created more time in my day. There are moments in my day where i’m just sitting around doing nothing because I’m adhering to those rules.

I feel inclined to fill the time with something to do. I’ve been writing more frequently here at FreeThinkr. (My goal is to post at least a couple times per month.) I’ve been meditating more often. I’ve been going on longer walks. I’ve been listening to more podcasts and audiobooks on those walks.

It feels more natural. I don’t feel pressed for time. By eliminating activities, I realize there is more than enough time.

What are some things you do in your leisure time that you could go without? What is the lead domino in your life, leading to lost time?

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Make your goals more robust by doing this:

Make your goals more robust by doing this:

I knew the exact path I would go down once I escaped high school. Get my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in accounting, conquer the CPA exam, and get a good job with benefits.

That was my goal from day one. Every day in school this goal was in the back of my mind.

I thought about getting to the end of the road. I had my eyes on the prize, and imagined how my life would be better once I reached the finish line.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing. In an early undergraduate accounting course my school required a minimum grade of a B before moving on to the next course.

I messed up on the first exam. My world almost came crashing down. Everything I was focused on almost disappeared. The future I dreamed of was slipping away. (In retrospect, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world. But in that moment, that was my whole world.)

Goals are great, but can be burdensome

I’ve been a fan of goals since I was young. They kept me accountable. They gave me a something to shoot for. They helped me zero in on what I needed to do.

Goals are important. But they are not the only thing that matters. (In case you were wondering, I had to retake that class, got an A, and lived happily ever after.)

The missing ingredient

In “The Power of Habit”, Charles Duhigg explores the depth of how humans function, including the neurological patterns that govern our habits.

He defines the habit loop and divides it into three elements: cue, routine, and reward.

According to Duhigg, cue and the reward are neurologically intertwined, creating a sense of craving. This is why some folks crave certain actions, like smoking a cigarette or eating that candy bar. What we really seek is the reward from the routine.

What can we do with this knowledge of habits?

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, wrote “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big,” where he explores the idea of goals and habits with a unique twist.

According to Adams, there are two types of people in the world: those who are goals-oriented and those who are systems-driven.

(For the purposes of this article, I use habits and systems interchangeably.)

Adams believes that goal-oriented people always exist in a state of pre-success or failure; there is no in between.

However, systems driven people look at the familiar in new and different ways. Those with a system in place succeed every time they implement the system.

For example

In honor of NoNoWriMonth, let’s say I have a goal to write a book. My hope is to achieve this goal in the next few months.

Thinking of this goal, I see a gorilla of a task at hand. Writing an entire book? Sheesh, that’s tough to do.

Now imagine this: Say I get 70% of the way through the book, but can’t do it anymore. I’m a failure. All of those hours were merely a waste of time. Unless…

I have a system.

What would your system be?

My system would be writing for a minimum of 10 minutes first thing in the morning. In those 10 minutes, write at least 500 words. It doesn’t matter how good or bad those 500 words are. The system is merely the act of writing within this time frame.

These mini-goals, or systems, are what is going to help me reach that long term goal of writing a novel. By writing for merely 500 words per day, I could easily have a draft with 45,000 words within 3 months. That’s the power of systems.

Systems also make it so you never truly fail

The system is writing for 10 minutes, first thing in the morning. What would I hope to accomplish with this system? Well…

  • I want to improve my writing skills
  • I want to improve my editing skills
  • I want to share my thoughts with the world

With my system in place, I would achieve bullets 1 and 2 every time I write. The 3rd bullet allows me an out even if you never finish writing the book. How so?

Let’s go back to the scenario earlier. Say I’m 70% of the way through the book and decide I can’t finish it. I just wasted a bunch of time.

But, if my goal is to share my thoughts with the world, I can still accomplish that!

I could break up the book into bite-sized pieces and share it with the world through articles my blog.

Systems increase your chances of success

Scott Adams looks at systems as a technique to increase your chances of success. It’s not simply success or failure, as it is in the goal-oriented frame of mind.

Instead, with the right system in place, you can succeed a little bit each and every day. These small wins drive you closer to accomplishing your goal of writing a book.

Adams actually recommends that you set up systems all throughout your life in order to accomplish those things that you want and increase your odds of success.

Another system example

One such system that I’ve implemented into my life is having 10% of my paycheck transferred into my retirement accounts every single month.

Instead of setting some audacious goal (say saving $1 million) and the obsessing over it every single month, I have a system in place that operates automatically. This one simple habit helps puts me on track for success. This system operates every single time I get paid.

Going back to the habit loop, the cue is receiving my paycheck, the routine is having it automatically transferred. What’s the reward? Checking my investment accounts and seeing the balance I’ve managed to accumulate.

This is one instance where having a system in life increases my odds of success. By creating the habit of saving, I don’t blow through my whole paycheck.

Instead, I slowly invest my cash that will help me reach my eventual goal of financial freedom. Do I know when I’ll reach that goal? No, but the system in place takes it from a pipe dream to a realistic probability just like that.

Systems-driven thinking

Systems influence your mindset. The right systems allow me to become mindful and focus on the present moment. Instead of thoughts about some future audacious goal, I focus on that task at hand.

I focus on what it is that I have accomplished already. With systems, the accomplishment is taking action. It’s writing 500 words today. It’s saving 10% of my paycheck every pay period.

The system becomes routine, and there’s no obsession on the end result.

Goals and anxiety

Personally, goals make me worry about the future to the point of anxiety. Goals can be overwhelming, especially if they aren’t expected to be accomplished for years or even decades.

Systems are a form of mindfulness, present state focus on the moment. They allow you think about what you are doing right now. You don’t think about how far away you are from that goal. This frees up your mental faculties so you can do deep work and do the best you can now.

Systems keep you grounded and present. They allow you not to obsess over the progress bar.

Don’t rob your present state awareness with audacious goals about the future. You can still reach them, you just need the right system.

What systems (or habits) have you implemented in your life that have had a big impact? Are there any systems you think we can benefit from by implementing into our lives?

I am lucky

I am lucky

I would be insulted if you called me lucky two years ago.

After all, I worked my ass off to get to where I am today. That’s not luck. I created this reality I live in.

Or so I thought.

I realized something a few months ago. Luck isn’t about winning the lottery. Being called lucky isn’t an insult. It’s the truth. After reflection, I am very lucky.

I was born in the right country to the right parents. Everything I have experienced has brought me to where I am today.

I almost drowned in family friend’s pool when I was 3 years old. But I didn’t. I was saved by my neighbor’s friend. I could be dead. But I’m not.

I have a natural drive to work hard. I’m self-motivated. I always wanted to do that best I could. I can’t describe what gave me this internal drive at a young age.

It wasn’t something that I learned from a book. There was a moment or series of moments that shaped me into becoming that type of person.

Maybe it was my mom, who started teaching me when I was 3 or 4 years old.

Or, maybe a teacher help change the trajectory of my life.

Or maybe it was my three siblings influenced me.

All I know is that if you change one of those inputs, the output or my life would be different today.

 

One Example

Bill Gates is brilliant. He’s ambitious. He took advantage of the opportunities he saw early in his life.

Bill Gates is also lucky.

He attended Lakeside, a private school in Seattle. A private school with a computer. Not just any computer, but a brand new, top of the line computer.

The Lakeside’s Mother’s Club had a rummage sale every year to raise money for the school. And instead of just funding the budget, they always would fund something kind of new and interesting in addition. And without too much understanding, they decided having a computer terminal at the school would be a novel thing. It was a teletype — upper case only, ten characters a second — and you had to share a phone line to call into a big time-sharing computer that was very expensive.

This was one moment in Gate’s life that put him on the path to revolutionizing the world. Luck played a role in getting him there.

What if one detail and his life changed? What is he attended Public School in Seattle instead of private? What if he not have access to a computer in middle school? Would he have still changed the world?

(Credit to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers for this story.)

When comes down to it luck and hard work two sides of the same coin. Here’s how I see it:

Luck + Hard Work = Success

No Luck + Hard Work = A difficult, but fulfilling life (in my opinion)

Luck + No Hard Work = A recipe for disaster (Case in point: lottery winners)

No Luck + No Hard Work = Not much

Being lucky isn’t a bad thing

Bill Gates got lucky. He worked his ass off for years and change the world and process. He took advantage of the luck bequeathed to him.

He leveraged this and used it as a springboard to create one of the most successful companies in the world.

Sometimes you just have to put yourself in the right place with the right amount of effort. Embrace the serendipity around you. Work hard. Follow your curiosities. Go where others haven’t dared to go. Who knows, luck might just find you.

What is one thing that has happened in your life that you would say was “lucky”? How would your life be different had that not happened?

Change your mental state by walking

Change your mental state by walking

I am a habitual walker. Everyone in my office knows that.

Around 7:30 am I get to work. I focus on the task at hand and get into flow until about 10 am. Then I take a break and step out of the office for a short 10 minute walk.

The time isn’t always the same, but one thing remains consistent: I make sure to get in my walk.

At 12 pm I take a break for lunch. After I finish eating I go for another short walk.

Then after another 2-3 hours I go for one last walk during the work day.

No matter where I am working or what is going on, I always find time to go for a walk.

I don’t care how busy things are or how crazy my bosses are, I make every effort I can to go for a walk and get my 10,000 steps in during the day.

It’s not always easy. Sometimes I have a deadline that I need to hit. Or I’m asked to help assist on another project. And I’ll go longer without taking a break. But I always find time for a walk.

Walking leads to focus

I credit walking with helping me focus better throughout the day. I’m more productive. Not only that, but I feel happier at work.

By the end day, while others are dragging ass and on their 3rd or 4th cup of coffee, I feel refreshed, focused, and as though I could continue working for another few hours if I have to (which I do sometimes).

I credit all of this to going for those short walks throughout the day.

I don’t walk because of the health benefits

I have a hard time sitting still. I like to get up and move. But when you work on the computer all day long, there aren’t many opportunities to this.

Many of my coworkers sit at their desk all day long without ever leaving the office. The only time they get up is to go to the bathroom, pick up something from the printer, or the heat up their lunch in the breakroom.

That’s not me. I need to get up. I need to move.

3 reasons to walk

Walking helps me reevaluate and focus on what matters

When I’m out in nature I focus better. I go out for a walk with thoughts or questions to ponder in my subconscious mind. When I go back to work, the answer I’ve been seeking suddenly comes to me.

Taking breaks throughout the day and changing the environment that helps my brain make connections that I wouldn’t otherwise make.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes you’re thinking about a problem before you go to bed, and then in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning the answer comes to you? That’s what happens when I go out for a walk. Answers seem to appear.

It is meditative

I’ve mentioned this in a prior article, but for me going for a walk can be very calming and meditative.

When I go for a walk I use it as an opportunity to focus and become mindful of the world around me.

When I walk out the door the first thing I notice is the sidewalk and all of the cracks and the plants growing in between some of those cracks.

I look up to the sky and notice if there are clouds. What are they shaped like? Does it look like it will rain today?

I look around at the trees and other features in the landscape around me. There is usually just grass and shrubs. But, every once in a while, there is a beautiful flower or unique looking plant.

Then my mind shifts to the buildings and the cars around me. I think about all of the other people out there. I wonder what they are up to and where they are going.

By the end of my walk, I am mindful and relaxed, just observing the world around me. It’s a great opportunity to reset your brain, recharge, and get ready to put in another few hours of work.

Best of all, walking is natural, easy, and free.

You don’t need a gym membership to go for a walk. You experience half the impact on your bones and joints than if you were to go for a run. And most people are capable of going out for a walk on a regular basis.

In fact, in a study published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, regular walkers could actually be healthier than runners.

Risks for hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease drop significantly in walkers as compared to runners.

This could be due to the fact that chronic running could lead to over training and inadequate recovery time, which could make you susceptible to overtraining, injury and illness.

In summary

Walking has made me more productive, relaxed, and happier.

Give it a shot! Using a fitness tracker or any number of free apps on your phone, try to get in 10,000 steps per day and see how it affects you.

Do you enjoy going for walks throughout the day? What benefits do you notice when you go for a 20 minute walk?

How are your questions?

How are your questions?

Three months ago my boss came to me and told me that I had to work out of town for a month. I would only be about an hour away, so I could commute if I wanted to.

This was a minor annoyance, but no big deal. I could still sleep in my own bed and go on with my normal routine without too much interruption.

That changed two weeks ago. Due to budget cuts, I wouldn’t be working an hour away. Instead, I would have to drive two hours away to Jacksonville and work there for a month. No way was I commuting now.

When I found out I had to spend a month away from home, I was heated. I was the only person from my office who had to travel away from home this year. And this would be my second time doing it.

Last time I also traveled to Jacksonville, and I was miserable. I was upset I had to spend time away from home. And that was only for two weeks. This time it would be for the entire month.

What’s wrong with me?

I had an observation three and a half weeks ago: the smallest things were setting me off.

I was complaining more. I was playing the victim. I believed everything was outside my locus of control.

So you can imagine how I felt when I was told I needed to go away for a month. I was angry. “Why the f*** do I have to keep doing this? It’s not fair.”

A few days after finding out I would be in Jacksonville I was listening to a Tony Robbins recording.

He talked about how we can’t control everything around us. But what we can control is our perception of the world. In order to change your perceptions, you must change the questions you ask yourself.

When you’re upset or angry or annoyed, don’t list the reasons why a situation sucks. Shift the focus. Ask better questions.

Ask yourself: “what’s good about this?”

The light bulb moment

A couple days later, I was taking my mid-morning walk at work still fuming when the light bulb went off. Right then I shifted the focus. I asked myself, “What’s good about this?”

When I got back to my desk I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote in big, bold letters at the top of the paper “What’s good about having to work in Jacksonville for a month?”

And I began to list things out.

  1. I’ll meet new people.
  2. I can go to new restaurants.
  3. I can check out their breweries.
  4. It won’t get dark until late, so I can explore after work.
  5. I’ll be downtown, and everything is within walking distance.
  6. I’ll challenge myself with new tasks at work.
  7. I’ll be able to go home on the weekends.
  8. All of my meals are paid for.
  9. I’ll break my routine.

All of the sudden, I started to feel better. Instead of being annoyed, I started looking forward to it.

In retrospect, I don’t even know why I was annoyed.

The only thing I really had to be angry about was being outside the comfort of my hometown. Other than that, going to Jacksonville looked like more good than bad.

How is it going so far?

Today is my second day in Jacksonville and I’m enjoying it much more this time around.

I’ve been able to explore more. I’ve gone to new places to eat. I’ve tried new beers.

I’m convinced I would not enjoy myself if I continued with the mindset of being annoyed.

But because I searched for reasons why this would be a good trip, it has thus far turned out to be good.

I reframed the situation by asking “what’s good about this?”

I forced myself to come up with answers to a question I didn’t even previously consider.

A reminder

This serves as a reminder for myself: you are only as good as the quality of questions you ask yourself.

You can use this same technique in a number of situations.

For example, if you’re stuck in traffic tomorrow, ask yourself, “what’s good about this?”

Come up with five reasons why being stuck in traffic is actually a good thing. I tried this the other day and there was a huge difference in how I felt by end of my evening commute.

Next time you’re in a situation that makes you angry, annoyed, or upset, ask yourself, “what’s good about this?”

It may be hard to come up with answers initially. You will want to resist answering. Overcome this resistance, answer the question as best as you can, and see how you feel.

Remember, you’re only as good as the quality of questions that you ask yourself.

Why I don’t tell people what to do anymore

Why I don’t tell people what to do anymore

As you know, I ran a personal finance blog for two years. I created the blog for three reasons: (1) to help people with their finances, (2) to reinforce what I was learning, and (3) to make a living from blogging.

At the start of this blog, I absorbed everything I could on personal finance. I read the classics, Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. I read The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham, followed up by Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

I read numerous other books in the following months and had a good grasp on personal finance. I gave advice to anyone who was willing to listen to me.

I would also write 2 posts per week about personal finance topics that I conjured up during the slow work day.

Do THIS, not that

In these posts I would pick an area people struggle with. Then I would tell them what to do.

Save 10% of your income. Open an IRA account. Don’t go into debt. You get the idea…

I felt like an authority. I believed as an authority it was up to me to tell people what to do.

It was all out of the goodness of my heart. Honestly. I didn’t think I was better than anyone. But I expressed what I thought people should do.

This began to trickle into my personal life

I would give advice to my girlfriend. “Do this instead.”

I would give advice to my sister. “Why are you doing it that way? Do it this way.”

I would have arguments with family members. I told them why they were wrong and why they should think about a particular situation differently. I’m not proud of those moments.

I had my view of the world and wanted everyone to conform to that view. Not necessarily in a negative way. It was just how I believed the world should be.

This changed last year

A year ago I became interested Buddhist concepts and philosophies. As I was reading, I came across a quote that stuck with me:

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

The Buddha himself essentially told people not to blindly follow what he said. It was his way of saying, try this yourself. If you like it, continue to use it. If not, move on.

And this idea struck a chord. All this time I was telling people what to do, what to think, what to believe.

I had my view of the world and what the right thing to do was. But that wasn’t the right thing to do.

The fault in giving advice

Derek Sivers was interviewed last month on the James Altucher Show. In this podcast, he asked James about how he deals with giving advice.

Derek went on to say that he never knew what to tell someone who came to him seeking advice.

For example, one person wanted to know if they should quit their job to pursue an entrepreneurial venture full-time.

Derek said he wasn’t sure what to tell this person. Should he tell them to quit? Or should he tell them to stick with their current job?

The dilemma caused him to think about the fault in giving advice.

Advice is a double-edged sword

Any advice we give to others is based 100% off our personal life experiences. It’s based off the knowledge and actions we have taken throughout our lives. And it may not always be the best advice.

That’s why it’s not useful to tell someone what to do in their life. Especially if you get into a position where people trust your opinion and will do whatever you tell them.

That’s where I could see Derek’s problem. What if he told them to quit their job and dive in full-time and they failed. Would it be his fault? Not really. But I’m sure he would feel pretty bad.

But what if he told them not to quit, and they never get that fire under their ass to turn their venture into something big. Is that also his fault?

I don’t tell anyone what to do, just what I’ve done

From these experiences, I’ve learned that it’s not my place to tell people what to do.

Even in their articles, I do my best to present to you things that I do that work for me, and encourage you to try them out for yourself. But I refrain from telling you what to do.

And this is where I leave it. “This is what I did in this situation. This is the end result. This is how I feel. Try it out yourself.”

I feel better now, not telling others what to do. I merely make suggestions based off my life experience.

Try this out yourself and see how it makes you feel. If you like it, great! If not, that’s okay too.

Do you ever find yourself telling others what to do? Or do you have others in your life who always seem to have advice for every thing? How does it make you feel?

Why I experiment with experimenting

Why I experiment with experimenting

I don’t enjoy being wrong. Because of this fear, I sometimes avoid doing things that I should do. I look at things as a success or failure without other consideration.

I’m working on fixing this. How? Self-experimentation.

How Have I Used Self-experimentation?

One case is the ecommerce business I’m working on.

When I started, I wanted the right product. I didn’t want to strike out and risk losing thousands of dollars.

So I tried something. I wouldn’t commit myself to a product early on. Instead, I looked at what I was doing as an experiment.

My experiment was to test out one product. Only after testing would I make a decision on whether it was worth selling.

Hypothesis

I will sell one unit per day without any advertising or promotion.

Procedure

First things first: I identified what the first product I would test was. Next, I needed to find a supplier that allowed me to place a small initial order.

Once I found one, I bought 20 units and waited two weeks to receive them in the mail. Once I received those 20 units, I put them up for sale on Amazon. A week went by with zero sales. I assumed this experiment failed…

On day 8 I received my first order. After which, I continued to sell one unit per day until I was completely sold out.

Now I had a decision to make.

Conclusion

I got the result I was hoping, but it took a little longer than expected. What should I do?

I knew this was a product that would sell consistently. People seem to want it, and there isn’t a ton of competition.

I deliberated for three weeks. I was so nervous about making a large investment in a big order. But this experiment made my decision a little easier.

Based off my results, I felt slightly more comfortable and took a leap of faith and purchased of 500 units. (This was not easy for me to do!)

Since then

I sell approximately 3-4 per day. Revenues were in excess of $3,600 in month one. Month two, over $4,000. Not too shabby.

And I continue to experiment with different aspects of online sales.

I experiment with various advertising methods, prices, and product descriptions.

By performing self-experimentation, I am able to eliminate certain biases.

How So?

In self-experimentation you commit yourself for a set period of time, say two weeks. At the end of the trial period, you evaluate results and see if they are in line with your hypothesis.

Then you make a judgment call to continue on or stop.

What is great about self-experimentation is that if you do it right, you maintain a non-judgmental and also non-biased view of your experiment.

In the end, there is no commitment since you had a defined period from the beginning.

A shift in thinking

Self-experimentation has shifted my mindset. Instead of looking at things as a success or failure, I have a more objective view.

I’m trying look at everything in my life as an experiment.

Tweaking Things

Another great aspect of self-experimentation is that you can tweak assumptions, test different hypothesis, and track results.

Let’s say you’re a guy and you want to get better at talking to girls (or vice versa).

You can test out different opening lines with a random person at the bar, and evaluate your results.

You could start by making an opening question about what someone is wearing. Gauge their reaction. If it’s positive, this is something that you could continue to use. If it’s negative, try something else.

Experimenting allows you to detach yourself from the result. It requires you to become more aware of the world around you.

Awareness

If you want to lose weight, test out certain diets in trial periods. Try the Atkins diet for one month. If you like the way you feel, continue. If you don’t, try a vegan diet. See how you feel. If that doesn’t work, try the paleo diet.

The key is to evaluate how you feel and the progress you make.

My Little Experiment

I was getting heartburn all the time. So I experimented with cutting down on coffee. I limited myself one cup in the morning (no more 2 PM caffeine boosts!). This helped a little bit.

Then I experimented with cutting down on dairy and other foods. My heartburn went down even more.

By self-experimenting, I was able to determine the root cause of my heartburn. As a result, I don’t need to go to the doctor and get prescribed some prescription medication that would only cover up the real problem.

My encouragement

Here’s a suggestion to you: experiment with self-experimentation. Test out something you’ve been thinking about for a while. Develop a hypothesis or expectation. Determine the test period, and track your results and form a conclusion. You may just be surprised by what you find.

Have you tried self-experimentation? What have you tested out yourself? What advice do you have for someone interested in self-experimentation?